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Shooting suspect's campus troubles led to suspension, officials say

By Ashley Powers, Maeve Reston and Rick Rojas

Los Angeles Times

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 12:05 p.m. HST, Jan 09, 2011


 

TUCSON, Ariz. — The 22-year-old man suspected in the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and at least 17 others outside a Tucson grocery store was suspended from a local community college last October for code of conduct violations and ultimately withdrew from the school voluntarily.

Jared Lee Loughner attended Pima Community College between 2005 and 2010. From February to September of last year, he was involved in five "classroom and library disruptions" that were handled by campus police, the school's officials said late Saturday.

He was suspended in late September after the college police found a video on YouTube in which Loughner claimed the college is "illegal" under the U.S. Constitution, officials said.

School officials said police officers delivered a letter explaining the decision to his home, where they spoke with Loughner and his parents. He was told he could return to campus only for an appointment to discuss the disciplinary actions against him in early October. During that meeting with campus officials, Loughner withdrew from the school.

Officials said they sent a subsequent letter telling Loughner that if he planned to re-enroll "he must resolve his Code of Conduct violations and obtain a mental health clearance indicating, in the opinion of a mental health professional, his presence at the College does not present a danger to himself or others."

On Nov. 30, a YouTube user who appears to be Loughner posted a video that offered diatribes against the Pima Community College, calls the school "unconstitutional," a "torture facility," and refers to teachers as "con artists." At one point, he castigates police for removing students from educational facilities for talking.

"... Removing you from the educational facility for talking is unconstitutional in the United States," the text says. "This situation is fraud because the police are unconstitutional!"

"Every Pima Community College class is always a scam!" he says. "Most people know all the subjects are for mind control and brainwash! The students are unconstitutionally paying for free education! The students are attending a torture facility! You know the teachers are con artists?"

Loughner attended Mountain View High School in Tucson through his junior year, but Marana Unified School District Spokeswoman Tamara Crawley said he did not return for his senior year in 2007 and never graduated. Crawley said the district could not discuss whether Loughner had any disciplinary problems during his years at the school.

Earlier Saturday night, residents attempted to grasp the events of the day, with several dozen people staging a vigil outside Giffords' office.

"It hurts all of us. They terrorized the one out to do good," Daisy Theriac, 36, said of Giffords. "If you can't be safe to meet your congresswoman or going to the store, how can you feel safe about anything?"

With six dead and at least 12 injured in the shooting, Tucson is grappling with the aftermath of a tragedy that struck close to home at a time when the state has been consumed with rancorous politics.

Particularly in the upscale area of northwest Tucson, where the shootings took place, locals say the sense of security they developed was breached by such a crime happening at place frequented by many who live nearby.

"Every time I think about it, I get overcome with emotion. Everyone who lives around here has a lot of shock and remorse for what happened," said J.T. Drisko, 21, a student at Pima Community College who lives within walking distance of the scene.

He got as close to the scene as he could get. He and his girlfriend carried a dozen white roses and seven white candles — one for each of the deceased and one for Giffords. "No one could have ever imagined this happening," he said.

Although Giffords, a 40-year-old moderate Democrat, has been cast as a rising star in national politics, in Tucson she is still thought of as a native daughter rooted in their community. Many have offered up anecdotes about her promptly mailed thank-you notes, and her stunning recall of the first names of constituents she would encounter.

"Gabrielle is just such a nice woman," said Colin Dyer, 26, a field manager for her reelection campaign. "That was the accessibility about her that people really identified with."

"At the same time," he added, "we live in a culture where vehement anger is voiced every day."

In recent months, the discourse descended from contentious to bordering on violent, yet she remained active. Fletcher McCusker, a lifelong Tucson resident, respected her for that. "She's had death threats, she's had windows broken out, but she never really changed her behavior," he said.

U.S. District Judge John Roll, 63, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush, was among the dead, as was one of Giffords' staff members. The Arizona Daily Star in Tucson reported the aide was Gabe Zimmerman, Giffords' 30-year-old director of community outreach.

The Pima County Sheriff's Department said those who died at the scene also include Dorwin Stoddard, 76; Dorothy Murray, 76; and Phyllis Scheck, 79.

A 9-year-old girl, Christina Taylor Green of Tucson, died later at a local hospital. She had just been elected to the student council at Mesa Verde Elementary School, local news outlets reported, and she tagged along with a neighbor who thought she might get a kick out of meeting a congresswoman.

"The next thing you know, this happened," Segalin told the Arizona Republic from outside the home of the girl's family. "How do you prepare for something like this? My little niece got killed — took one on the chest, and she is dead.

Segalin painted her as an ambitious girl who took part in everything from ballet to baseball. She had also recently received her first Holy Communion at a local Catholic Church, according to the Daily Star.

In a written statement, the bishop of the Tucson diocese, Gerald F. Kicanas, quoted Jesus' words in the Book of Matthew: "Let the children come to me."

"Christina is with Him," Kicanas said.

———

Times staff writer Powers reported from Tucson and staff writer Rojas reported from Los Angeles. Staff writers Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Nicole Santa Cruz in Tucson contributed to this report.

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